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tv   American Artifacts Americas Story in Portraits  CSPAN  December 29, 2018 10:00am-10:41am EST

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holocaust this sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american artifacts. you're watching american history tv only on c-span 3. >> when the new congress takes office in johnson, it will have the youngest, most diverse freshman class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it live on c-span starting january 3. >> each week american artifacts takes viewers to museums around the country. the smithsonian's portrait allery opened its doors in 2008. > welcome.
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i am the director of the national portrait gallery here in washington dc. i am going to take you on a tour of 12 remarkable americans. because that was the brief given to us by congress when we were founded in 1952. this was the place we came to register inventions. it became a museum in 1968 when we opened to the public. this is our 50th anniversary. the charter that was handed to us by congress was to collect the men and women who made an impact on america's history and culture. i use that word impact advisedly. e have people like john wilkes booth to assassinated president lincoln, and the notorious gangster al capone. there is no moral test. we are not a hall of heroes. what we are is the place to
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reflect on those people who have changed the national conversation and got us to where we are today. let's start with first lady michelle obama. you probably already heard a lot about this feature. it has caused quite a lot of discussion across the internet nd we had many visitors come and advise it michelle. this is a portrait by the baltimore artist, who a few years earlier had actually won our portrait competition that happens every three years. here you will see a fantastic icture of michelle obama sitting outside. sitting was done in the fresh air. you can see it's a blue background, wearing this wonderful dress. the dress is a very -- is very appealing to the artist. it related to modern art. it actually looks like the constructivist paintings. also it has a quilt-like effect that made cheryl and michelle obama think about the quilts
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that had been made by the ancestors of enslaved women. the most interesting aspect of this portrait is in fact the gray skin tone the artist used to depict an african-american woman. she said she was actually challenging the history of african-american portraiture. hen you are enslaved you are unlikely to get a portrait of yourself made. it was very expensive. so the change happens with photography. suddenly black and white photographs are available and black families can actually have portraits taken of their friends and beloved there were raised initially as black. my cheryl carries around a beautiful picture of her grandmother that is a black-and-white portrait. she said, i think i was unconsciously tapping into that image of this beautiful self-assured and very
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intelligent woman. she also made a point in saying i would like to move past questions of racial identity. we are a large country that has people of deferment identities and appearances and she said this is a portrait of a strong woman who has made a difference and i want her to have a universal quality. some people might have actually seen the wonderful moment around march in 2018 with a little 3-year-old parker curry was caught gazing in awe at mrs. obama. later when she was asked what did you see, parker, she said i thought she was a queen. let's go to another very different but equally colorful interesting portrait. crossing the delaware.
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dressed as george washington. remember, i said there was no moral test to be in the portrait gallery. the only people who automatically get in our -- are presidents and first ladies. so you might ask how do you actually get your picture into the portrait gallery? we have historians and art historians. it really starts with the biography of the president in he portrait. has that person changed the way america looks at itself or has advanced its culture? no surprise to anyone, portraiture was a very elitist art form. it was reserved for those who ould vote. white men who owned land. in order to have a painted portrait done of yourself it was very expensive.
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portraiture doesn't come until its own --, to -- come into its own. once interesting as there are many people in our history whose ortraits were never detected because they might have been a slave, a migrant, they might have even just been a woman. one of the projects we've had here at the portrait gallery is to ask ourselves how do we represent the great seal of merica, e pluribus unum? out of many, one. in fact if you had been asianit was very unlikely you would american, become a governor or a congress erson let alone president of the united states. there was some form of the asian exclusion act in place until 965. this is an interesting picture i'm about to show you. it's called crossing the elaware.
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it's a very large and colorful picture. in the top right-hand corner you will see a silhouette. it looks a bit like a replica what you see happening in the main part of the painting. it's actually a copy of a well-known picture by a manual of george washington crossing the delaware. what roger has done is he put himself as the person of george washington. in the background, instead of delaware what you see is angel island, that was on the west coast. it is near san francisco. it is sort of the ellis island of california. immigrants would come to this country. and clear customs to a brand new life. he comes originally from japan and they came and entered into america through angel
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sland. you have him dressed as washington in the boat. instead of having soldiers from the american revolution as george washington would have it, e has friends. who are dressed as samurai. if you look at their faces, they are a little nervous. they are saying, i you sure about this? are we really going to this new country? he is saying yes, we are going to do that. you can see in the colors and the shapes that this was very much like a japanese woodblock print. he has taken his culture from japan and merged it with his personal history, but puts it into something that relates very much to american history. let's go down the hall through he great hall.
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incidentally, it was largest place to have a party in the 1960's. now president lincoln loved to invite the people to everything that he did. he said come to my inauguration. they did. it turns out a big fight broke out in the next morning they had to carry drunken people out from under the table. this building and certainly this great hall has seen a lot of history. i would love to show you a cool drug abused to the proggets gallery. -- introduced to the project gallery. it's an app you can download onto your phone. once you loaded you hold it up to a painting and it will read it by facial recognition and very soon you can see all the
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information about the portrait is available. why am i showing you this? the project gallery is going bilingual. all of our labels are in english and spanish. soon everything will also be available in two languages on the app. also audio and video and some interesting things you can access from home. this is a portrait of frida kahlo. she is not american, she is actually mexican. why do we have a non-american here? if you remember, it was men and women who made an impact on america. most people are from america, but not everyone was born here. there are many people that came that actually changed the culture. frida kahlo is known very much for her art. she created these beautiful portraits of her home country. but also came here to the united states with her husband,
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specifically in california and new york. she did many self-portraits. and this picture shows her in her native dress. frida thought it was very important to show she was a proud mexican man. she wore beautiful jewelry and white dresses. she brought that. it's important to cross cultures and learn from each other, to build empathy to the good of everybody. it's a wonderful portrait. to show a story about the cross-cultural impact that americans have had from asians all around the world. let's go downstairs and look at those american presidents, starting with george ashington.
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here we are in the hall of america's presidents. don't forget to put -- to pick up the brochure, because it does real work. you can see all of the presidents we've had to date on one piece of paper. now i want to introduce you to a very important painting of possibly one of the most important americans we've ever had, george washington. it was painted in 1796 by gilbert stuart in philadelphia. why is it so important? it's the portrait of the man who invented the presidency. he was not only at america's first president, but he came out of retirement to lead the country. there were no political parties at that point. he of course, being general of the continental congress army, and had done such an amazing job granting independence from the british that everyone said, no one can do
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this better than you. he came to be our first president. you will notice he actually has the ceremonial sword by his side, recognizing the fact that he had been in fact a soldier. why else is this very important? it's actually considered a moment where he's addressing congress. we have with known as the state of the union address. this started with george washington, and he just turned out into his audience in the fourth term of congress. this is also a moment where you see a lot of symbolism about what the aspirations are for america. you will see a rainbow. if you follow that rainbow all the way down to the picture, it lands in this very curious ink well. take a good close look, it is actually a reproduction of oah's arc.
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god made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights. every morning noah went up on the arc, with the animals to buy wo, would send out a dove. can you see what is sitting in hat inkwell? a white dove feather. you will also see in this picture our whole series of books. he was in just a soldier, he was a scholar. those books represent the articles of confederation, the constitution of the united tates, and other laws we believed he would govern the way people work together. it had been much discussed in roman times. it was the founders who suggest
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there was a way people could govern themselves. we call it the landstown portrait for that reason. he had been the prime minister f britain and much of what had been happening in the olonies. and in fact supported their search for independence. this was actually a gift to him. there were a number of copies in -- of this painting including at the pennsylvania academy in philadelphia and indeed even the white house. you will often see pictures of the president standing in front of a copy of this painting. but we have the first.
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another thing is other symbols, such as the little flag embedded in the chair. you will also see the open curtain. in fact, the curious way of what e call composition is the the resident gesturing out like a senator in a roman forum. yes he's addressing congress, but it turns out this picture has a very famous painting done by ramsey of the hated king george the third. in that picture george the third is wearing a crown, he's got a scepter. he is dripping in jewels. every visit comes with inherited royalty and wealth. in our picture, we have a man who was a brave soldier and a scholar and a simple black velvet suit. but living in those times would
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have been unmistakably knowing that this is our new leader. someone who was elected and not born into office. now let's go and have a look at lincoln and what toll the civil war made on that man. one of the questions people are asking is how do we know that portrait is accurate? how do we know they have made a really good likeness of the person in the portrait? one answer was to make life mask and there is a long history of people sitting down to have clay put on their face because it would be more scientific. one of the things you should think about is who is really in control? i think of it as a three legged stool. on one corner you have thesitter. if they are famous, they have a
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how -- definite idea of they would like to be remembered in history. ou have the artist, and they don't want anyone to tell them what they want them to do. you will get audience is coming o the sea. who is in control and how much s a true likeness? when photography comes along there is this feeling that this is the most scientific way to capture a portrait. we all know in the age of elfies that is not true. you can manipulate a portrait just as much as you can change a painting or a sculpture. the life mask. here is an incredible series of life masks of abraham lincoln. what happened was they put something like duck fat on his eyebrows to make sure when the clay went on it would not strip them off later on and little straws were stuck up the nose to
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let them breathe. there is a wonderful story of george washington having a life mask put on. as the clay was drying, martha washington walked into the room and started laughing. there is a little crack in the corner of his mouth. because he started to smile. in this case you can see this first life mask of lincoln in 1860. he's just been elected as president. no one expected this. certainly not lincoln. you can see tezz looking pretty good. he doesn't have a beard. he's looking pretty young. he hasn't actually entered into the white house yet, but he's on his way. now look at the second life mask. it is a credit to him that he came back a second time. he had to sit there for something like 40 minutes to let it dry. you can't move. it must have been pretty claustrophobic. he did sit and this is in 1865.
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can you believe this is only five years apart? a little less actually. in this second life mask, you see lincoln is looking exhausted. he has a beard but he also has these deep, sunken eyes and wrinkles. this of course was the result of the civil war. at this point it was over and reconstruction was to begin. but the toll literally showed on is face. you can see with it the two casts of his hands. in 1860 he's looking pretty good. in the second hand it looks like an old man's hand. let's have a look at the touch tables. when you come to the project gallery you can learn a lot by technology. and we have a website you can explore even more. the museum writes about 140 words in english and spanish
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for you to read in the galleries. can you imagine trying to explain lincoln in 140 words? it's not possible. this is where technology can come to our rescue and we can learn so much more. let's go have a look. if you remember we collect presidents automatically. we have 1600 portraits of presidents. on these touch tables you can see 800 of them. one of the marvelous things as you can get really close, especially the sculptures. let's look at the lincoln life mask again. just touch on that and view the object. i can make it bigger or smaller, or i could look all around and even underneath. do you want to see what lincoln's ear looked like? you can get a very close look. this also will tell you a little bit about his life. stories and other different types of pictures that we have
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in the collection. here is an early photograph. ook how close you can get. now we have another really large painting of a president. this was done of john f. kennedy shortly before he died. you will see it's a really colorful and what we would call expressionistic. that's because it was part of a movement called abstract expressionism that includes lake krasner and even her husband. the thing was she can never quite give up the human figure. she loved to show people and she was commissioned to do this portrait by the truman library
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in kansas city because they have a tradition to make a portrait of the sitting president. she was invited to palm beach florida, which was the winter white house during the dministration. the first day, he had a t-shirt on. sort of a polo. short sleeves. mr. president, you can't come dressed like that, this is your official portrait. he says, that's your problem, not mine. you will notice there is a lot of color in it. when asked about that, she said, everyone knows him from the television. back then it was black and white. but he had this golden aura around him. he had this life, and i wanted that to come out. you'll notice that he is perched at the end of his chair. that shows that he found it very difficult to sit still for a long time.
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the family chose elaine. they wanted to have a woman artist. they wanted somebody who really expressed this way of making paintings that was very american. more important they wanted someone who could paint quickly. he was always in pain after he hurt himself during the war. here we have this amazing painting. this was the last picture of kennedy before he was killed. elaine was so devastated, she stopped painting for a year afterwards. let's look at another president, george walker bush, number 43. paintedly his classroom mate robert anderson in 2008. one of the things you will notice is as we get closer to our modern times, they become a little more modern and certainly a lot more relaxed. at the time of this unveiling, there was a twitter about the fact that the president was not
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wearing a tie. in fact, here he is sitting in camp david before he leaves office with an open collared denim shirt. t's very approachable. he picked somebody who is sympathetic and a friend. very different from the portrait of his father, president bush, who is actually standing in the white house in a pinstriped uit. let's go and have a look at the latest portrait we have of president barack obama. this was painted 10 years after the portrait of george w. bush. if you're looking closely, you can see some similarities. both men are sitting down, looking directly out at you. neither of them are wearing a tie. much is made about the fact that this artist, the first american -- african-american to do an
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official portrait of a sitting president broke with conventions, certainly very green. in some respects, i believe he as looking at that portrait by elaine of john f. kennedy. but what is this garden? what's happening here? remember, when we look at george washington there were a lot of symbols in that picture. i think this is the next time an artist really tries to put symbolism in the portrait. he is in a garden. the leaves i believe are wild roses. in fact they are little budded roses. every valentine's day we give them a significant gift of ove. there actually would be an official flower of chicago, where barack obama was a senator. then we have the white flowers.
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they are jasmine. here is a type of jasmine that grows in hawaii and also another type of jasmine that comes from indonesia. also relating to his childhood. those purple flowers are known as african lilies to connote kenya, where his father came from. here we have literally barack obama in a garden of his history, his biography. one of the things the artist mentioned is that it almost seems like the leaves are creeping over his shoes and bringing him back. now he is very well known for these bright colors. he is a bit of a hip-hop artist. he has taken african-american men and women and put them into these wonderful settings. there is a great picture of ll cool j looking like nelson rockefeller.
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the president didn't want anything like that, so he created a whole new way of hinking. not just about how the depict the presidency but about how to actually break with conventions was still embracing past traditions. it's a wonderful picture and we get a lot of people coming to pay respect to our most recent president. we started on the third floor. we're now on the second floor. let's look at some of america's origins. the people who made this country. i want to introduce you to an interesting picture. it is called the men of progress. it's by kristin of 1862. why is it so interesting? i like to think of a quote pablo picasso that says if art is a lie that illustrates the truth, that also pertains to portraits.
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remember the conversation about the three-legged stool? how an artist wants to be seen, how an artist wants to do pick them and then asks the audience? if you look at this picture, you see all the inventors of america seated at the table is samuel morris with his telegraph invention. also at this table you see mr. goodyear, who invented the goodyear tire. a lso see a small model of reaper created by mr. mccomeack. all sorts of people that have created inventions. it doesn't remind us of any part of this building. more curiously, we noted in the background is a picture of the patron of invention in america, benjamin ranklin.
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those 19 men didn't get in a room together and stand conveniently so everybody could be seen. these people were depicted separately. and then added into this group picture. another question you might ask yourself is why are there only men of progress? where are the women? where the people of color? this was a time when to have a portrait done was a lead. it was reserved for white men who owned land. this was the way we were going to tell america we were the greatest invention, but it was being led by men and not women, and certainly not anyone outside of that club. these are the patents coming in, small little models in the patent office so no one copied
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their ideas. there were well over 2000 patents submitted at the time of this painting by women. this is very selective history. sometimes what we see is more about what's left out than what the included. let's look at somebody who rarely would have a portrait taken. have you ever heard of the adage, well behaved women rarely make history? that is absolutely true of portraiture. unless you are married to somebody or someone's mother, women very rarely had their portraits made. only a quarter of the entire collection are women sitters. why do we have this portrait? he looks like somebody's grandmother. or someone's aunt.
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she is obviously very middle-class if not upper-middle-class. why did and have her portrait made when very few women did? the clues, you will see her holding a newspaper. it is not just any newspaper, it is the maryland gazette. and he actually was the editor of the maryland gazette. this was a time when everyone got their news from many different types of newspapers that spring up overnight. it was a major way to find that news about the war of independence. despite the fact they had 14 children, she managed to run the paper. she didn't just run it, she got
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it out of the red. her husband was not a very good businessman, had run the business into debt. and not only raised the family, she got the paper out of debt. recognizing her achievement as a woman of courage and extraordinary distinction. they decided very carefully to separate church and state. they knew people would be coming around from different fates -- others came willingly and others did not,. he spoke fluent arabic and was a practicing muslim.
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he was enslaved in the plantation of maryland until he was the age of 60. he went to work as a handyman in georgetown where he helped build rooms and fix fences and aren't enough money for his retirement and actually having a savings account in the local bank. we all know the story of christopher columbus. i think by now we realize when he arrived on north american shores, there were people here. there were many times the native americans, who called america home, here we have a portrait of pocahontas done by an unknown artist, this picture became quite famous because it helped
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the european settlers make themselves feel better about what had happened. of course well-known of having saved the lives of colonialist john smith. she converts to christianity, she marries a british man, and she goes to england and is introduced to royalty. you can see she is being remade as a good colonialist of the british empire. she is wearing a very fancy dress. to make it more palatable for the audience is back home. this was an interesting story about how america wanted to be seen and how it justified what happened with early colonialism and the story of the native
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americans. we started with michelle obama, the first african-american first lady of the united states. we end with pocahontas, who was in fact a native american princess. both incredibly strong women who changed the way we think about this nation. soon we will be recognizing other amazing women as it comes up to the 100 year anniversary of women's right to vote and the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920. it hasn't even been 100 years since women have been able to have a hand in the political process. also soon on display will be the life of marian anderson, who is banned from singing and had to stand up on the lincoln memorial
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steps as an opera singer to proclaim she indeed had a voice. it's an exciting time to be in america. it's an exciting time for us to be thinking about how we live together and what kind of future we want. i think we are pretty good when we are looking at someone like pocahontas and it is bringing us to michelle obama. and all of those people who hehehehehenge the history and culture of the united states of america. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website, 1968, americans in turmoil. this weekend, american history tv will re-air our series, looking back 50 years. starting sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern. revisiting the vietnam war, race relations, women's rights and
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the presidential election. only on american history tv. >> when the new congress takes office in january, it will have its youngest, most diverse freshman class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it online on c-span, starting january 3. >> on december 24, 1968, as they became the first humans to leave the earth, william anders returned reading passages from the book of genesis to listeners on earth. this weekend on american history tv, the ceremony called the spirit of apollo, from washington national cathedral, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the mission. here is a preview. means, the flight of apollo eight was a complete success. systems unction
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as planned. navigation and communication operations proved their worth. ,he timing of the flight orbiting the moon at christmas, provided is a spiritual environment to read the first 10 forces -- verses of genesis to an audience. man got his wish to go to the moon. he became a celebrity and that one photo provided convincing evidence that many nations are but one world. for me, the flight prepared me for my next mission. apollo 13. that's another story. it was the american public that received the greatest gift. , itr a year of controversy gave them a reason to be
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american. -- of apollo up eight can be expressed by telegram. you saved,d thanks, 1968. the entire commemoration this tuesday at 8:00 p.m.. you're watching american history tv all -- only on c-span3. in addition to the mount vernon river, along the potomac george washington owned a townhouse in the heart of alexandria, virginia. the current owner of the property, rick garcia, talks about his family's connection to the washington's and they recently discovered wells. we also visited the alexandria archaeology


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